Friday, November 18, 2011

Dosage of Gratitude Pills in India

The minute we pulled into the New Dehli Airport I took a picture from my window.  This is what I came for…prayer, meditation…reconnecting with my spirituality and practicing my yoga.

I picked up my baggage and found my driver. We jumped into the car and headed out to the city. The first thing I heard while we drove off where the horns from the other drivers motioning for us to move along and then my driver chimed in with his car horn as if to tell them , yeah OK I hear you, but my horn works too , so you move along. This begins the sounds of India that does not stop.
We get on the highway that is shared with rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, dogs and cows. I was deflated within 5 minutes of arriving. This is it? My driver speed through the other cars, dust kicking the wind, not the other way around.

My driver pointed out the window for me to look at the cows eating garbage on the side of the road.  He does not point out the children that are also picking through the same garbage. I’d like to think I didn’t really see that, but I did and it’s only been 15 minutes on the road.

Amidst the dust, spurts of colorful sari’s started to pop up here and there passing us by. Women on the backseats of motorcycles peacefully, balancing their bodies, both feet swung over to the left side, holding their driver’s waist.

The women don’t wear helmets only their sari’s flapping in the wind. Whole families on one bicycle…Mother, Father and baby sleeping in between them, while mom still manages to hold a grocery bag.

We make it to my hotel, Shanti Home. I settle in, the horns finally stop around 10pm, yet I wake up at 5am to the sounds of fireworks celebrating a Hindu holiday called  Karwa Chauth. A holiday were women fast to celebrate their husbands. I decide to get up and watch the fireworks while eating breakfast on the outdoor patio of the hotel. The horns start again at 6am.

Today I take a day trip to one of the treasures of the world,  the Taj Mahal: Memorial of Love.  More honking, more dust, five hours later we reach the city of Agra. My driver tells me I will have a tour guide to take me into the Taj. We pull into a narrow alley way and my guide jumps in the car. He introduces himself as Navid.

Esther Friedman aka Frugal Buddha with Navid

Navid tells me once we hit the Taj grounds to stay close to him and don’t speak to anyone.  Navid purchases my ticket and tells me to go on the line for women to enter; he will come back for me. The line wrapped around  the building more than 3 times.   Navid pulled me from the back of the line and told me to go under the fence, we  walked along the side of the Taj till we get  to the front entrance.   The security guard lets me cut the line and I was in…by passing an hour await.  Go Navid!

At the compound  you can only take pictures of the outside grounds.

When inside the tomb, Navid tells me to listen for the echo of my name.  He yells my name aloud and it echos through out the building, everyone looks up, including me, completely embarrassed. Navid tells me if I can hear the echo it means I’ll be back. I was like move it along Navid, move it along.

We jump back into the car. Navid tells me he wants to take me to the family whose ancestors made the marble that was used to build the Taj. The family has been making this marble for generations. He tells me I’ll like them. I said, OK. I jump out of the car and lead into a basement. Offered a seat on the gold velvet couch.  Then I'm offered some chi tea. "That's OK,"  I say.  "You are my guest this is what we do, I insist.",  said the shop owner. So I sit, keeping my cool, hoping I will not be abducted into some harem. Velvet couches in a basement. No windows people.

I am given the presentation. I was not up for the sell but here I was taking a tour of marble in a dim lit basement. The marble man was wondering why I was not marveling over the marble with the detailed embroidered flowers that takes them one day to make and they pay a worker $4.50 a day which I betcha that was him inflating the rate that he paid the worker. The worker may actually get $4.50 a week or less. I didn’t know how to explain the whole thing was not my aesthetic  back home. I'm a minimalist.  I wasn’t feeling it. I purchased a marble magnet with an elephant for 100 rupees equivalent to $10. Frugal Buddha pays and sprints out of there.

Navid tells me he wants me to see the jewelry store. I tell him him I’m not feeling jewelry. He tells me to only look. We drive to another location down another alley way into a rickety old shack. Once we pass the first front doors a door man escorts me into a room of jewelry that looks like stuff out of JC Penny or Target. I’m bummed because now I’ve got to sit through another presentation. I am offered another  drink.  I figure hang out and get what I want, a diet coke up in this joint. They bring me a pepsi.

I go through the loose stones and shown the stone of Agra. This stone can only be found in Agra. When held to the light it has a six point star.  I tell Agra stone man that I’m not feeling the stones anymore. He tells me he is just doing his job, that I don’t’ have to buy his stones. He is right but I let that go over my head. I seek out the smallest stone to wrap up, pay for and get the hell out of there.

Across the street Navid escorts me to a gift shop, I walk out with teas, saffron spices and key chains. Frugal Buddha was not being frugal. I told Navid lets stop this shopping. I didn’t come here to shop for all this stuff I don't want.  I'm hungry.

At lunch I sat and realized I needed to pull myself together. Needed to reel it in over here in India. I was so overwhelmed with all the vendors, the people,  my surroundings, my safety in a foreign land not knowing the language. I became very dependent on the two men I was traveling with. Purchasing items from their friends to make them happy. It didn’t make sense to be so co dependent.

 I realized I had seen so many people in India yet did not talk to anyone  until I met these vendors in private rooms behind closed doors. I made them the face and voice of India,  giving them my money. I would have preferred to give all those people I was seeing in the streets my money. I’m purchasing marbles, stones? It was a semi expensive lesson to learn no means no in any language. So when they ask me if i want to buy anything for the rest of this trip,  I'm going to say NO!

I don't have a whole lot of money yet up in these parts I'm a very rich woman. I give when I give, when I can. Somewhere along this part of the journey  I also learned to have no shame or guilt for having money, as it seemed these people that were begging have no shame or guilt for asking.  There seems to be major acceptance all around.  "It is what it is",  over here. 
I encountered this one little boy that kept tapping my thigh, signaling me to feed him.  From where he stands that is what he does day in and day out and he has to.  I played with that kid who could have easily been 4 years old, for probably only 5 minutes.  He seemed to enjoy the break up of  the monotony of his day of asking for food and money all day long.  This kid kept taping me so I turned it into a game of tag. Under the circumstances this young boy seemed to be happy and  playful.  He also had a sense of dignity that was so profoundly  ingrained in him naturally, that it didn't matter that he did not have pants on.   This 4 year old kid gave me more within that experience then I could  ever give him in rupees.

The next day my driver Raja picks me up and asks me where I want to go. I tell him I don’t want a pashmina, jewelry or any other touristy thing. I only want to see record stores. As we drive I tell Raja the story of how my family owned record stores and as a kid my dad would bring home children songs for me to listen too. I fell in love with an album of Indian children songs that was amongst the stack.  I would dance for hours in total bliss. I'm only seeking Indian children songs today I tell Raja.

Through out the years I would look in record stores, go online, search YouTube but didn't know what I was looking for, I could barely remember the melody.   I asked my Dad if he could get the album for me again and he said it was one I could only get in India. Well now I am actually here and I am on a mission to find that album. We picked up a friend of mine, drove to Lotus Garden Restaurant for lunch. I prepped my friend that I am on a mission to find this album, would she like to join me. I’ll go to one stop with all the boutiques but I’m only looking for music. All day we popped from place to place to no avail. Raja could see I was pouty. He said he was not taking me back to the hotel until I was happy.

Below cow standing outside music shop...

Raja takes me to Kahn Market. He told me he’ll wait for as long as it takes. I tell him “No” wait ten minutes. I run into the music shop and I am greeted by a young man who was naming tunes for customers. This reminded me of the days I use to work in my father’s store and someone would only need to hum a tune without words and ask  me if I knew the song. "Who sings that song?",  they would ask.   I would walk to the the bin, pull out the album without saying who the artist was and go BAM! I would pride myself for knowing they wanted “La la I love you” by the Delfonics or the soundtrack to the TV Show Taxi by Bob James. I don’t have that skill set anymore but I saw myself in this Indian man. I told him what I was looking for and he said it was an old Bollywood song from the 60s. I looked at the list of songs on the CD. Something inside myself said this could be it. I have it in my hands then I dropped the CD and crack the plastic case. Without showing the man the crack I pay 195 rupees. You’d think I had found gold. All I wanted to do was get back to the hotel to play my songs.

Back at my hotel, I asked the staff to help me set up the CD player. They closed the door. The first song played. No!! The second song played. I sucked my breath and heard what I thought I would never hear again unless I went to India. I am in India, listening to this song with happy tears rolling down my face. Now that I know what it is, here it is for your listening pleasure. This song bought me so much joy growing up between 8 – 9 years old. I’d create my own saris and make up my own Indian dance moves.

Enough of New Dehli…a native would tell you that, I head out to Rishikesh, India,  a spiritual community in the Himalayas mountains. I get to the train station an hour and a half early to realize I’m waiting on the wrong track.

 I run along the side of the train like the scenes you see in old movies.  I reach my car and pull my bag up,  the train starts moving. The train I am on is equivalent to the NJ Transit, yet the train that the Other people are on  looks like a slave ship going by. Not cute. Looking out the window I continued to see more disturbing sites along the way for the rest of the journey up North. All I could ask the universe was, "Why?"

I arrive in Hardiwar train station. I needed to find a  taxi to take me up the mountain before 9pm before the road is closed. No one speaks English not even the information desk. I start praying, "God please help me find my way."
 I find a man standing next to a car and I ask him if he can take me  to Rishikesh. He says No. He asks his friends, they say No. In broken English and sign language I ask where an internet café is,  a taxi and a phone. He said I could use his phone.

I call the Ashram  Parmath Kiketan where I am staying and tell them I’m having trouble finding a taxi to bring me up the mountain. They tell me what street to start walking along. I ask how much is a fair price to pay to get there. They say 900 rupees. I thank the man that let me use his phone and started walking along the road. A man approached me and asked if I needed a taxi. I asked if he could take me to Rishikesh, he said 900 rupees I said you are on. Meet Itvar who lovingly said to me “Welcome to India!” as I got in the car.


I checked into the Ashram and was informed we would have 3 Ayurvedic meals per day. I made it a priority to figure out what time I had to be ready to   be the first to get to the dining hall. There were over 600 people at this 11/11/11 celebration event. At the dining hall I meet like minded folks who like their food. We learned our names and what countries we came from.

At my first Kundalini yoga class at the retreat,  I faced the waters of the famous Ganga River. Water from the Ganges is used to cleanse any place or object for ritual purposes. Bathing in the river is believed to wash away one's sins. To bathe in the Ganga is a lifelong ambition for Hindus. I am not a Hindu nor keep up with all the deities...

yet as I did my yoga practice my inner voice said to the Ganga, “I’m here. I made it. What do you have to say now?"  

The Ganga said to me, “Thank you for coming.”

“Why am I here?",  I asked

Mata Ganga said, “ I just wanted to see you.” 

That Mata Ganga. I put my big toe in the water.

Every day for 8 days straight we did Kundalini yoga alongside the Ganga River while Snatam Kaur, Deva Premal and Mitan, plus Guru Singh amongst others played live for us. This is why I really came.  Every day I got to listen to my favorite yogi music live while practicing my favorite yoga in India was heavenly and magical for me.  I was so engrossed with practicing yoga, I got in 6 hours a day while my peers were putting in 8 - 12 hours. 

It was really important for me to pace myself between classes so I had enough time to get to the dining hall at the designated eating times. Priorities people.




5:30pm before dinner everyday, thousands of devotees assemble at the Ganga for the famous Aarti performed daily by Swamiji.

After the ceremony Swamiji invites people to sit with him and ask questions in his home. I got to go. I got to listen  to Sadhvi Bhagavati speak about forgiveness.  The voice recorder would not upload.  someday I'll figure it out.

Some days I would take a walk through town. It was really bizarre walking amongst the people. A very ancient land.

There was a manic chaos within the streets, while a reserved calm covered it all.

Where did this inner peace come from? I couldn't tell if it came from within the people or the people were within the bubble. Another observation was the lack of neurosis, obsession and compulsion within the society as a whole. I enjoyed myself without phones, emails, TV, movies, glossy magazines, refined sugar, alcohol nor any kind of branding so much so  I too lost all my own neurosis, obsessions and compulsions. Something to revel in and enjoy to the fullest. When I left that was the thing I cried about. I didn't want to leave that feeling.

Monkey butt

I remember one afternoon I was saying to myself I won’t find pennies on the ground in this village. Back home I always see pennies and I pick them up because the penny says "In God we trust" ,and I like to remember that. To me it is a symbol for me to pause and remember I have a higher power. I get to my room and notice a penny on my bed. “Come on!” That’s what I said. But I’m just telling it like it went down.

I also like to take photos of stars, smiley faces and hearts that I find throughout different cities I visit, and now countries. Another day on my way back to my room from an evening music concert I see a red shining star on the pathway to my room. No biggy, but nice for my little star fetish.

Many afternoons we danced at the Ganga River.

How long could I hold the camera when all I wanted to do is dance.

There was also a yoga aide were money was raised after each yoga class.   $45,000 was raised for six orphanages in India.  Group photo of all the folks that raised money.

Below children from the Ramana Gardens Orphanage perform.

In Rishikesh, it is the nice part of the river, where there is a green project and they clean the water as it goes down stream. Swamiji had a clean up team which I took part of . 

Later after the clean up,I sat at the Ganga River with my roommate. She was taking my photo when I looked down and noticed the same red star that was on my pathway to my room was now underneath my foot.

I saw that star  2 days prior. . Come on! That’s what I said. There was no confetti or glitter of any kind throughout this town or anywhere near our tents. Only this one star that followed me down to the river. It was my star to pick up and make a wish upon...
that I did.

Wishing continuous peace and serenity, excellent health, and abundance for my family, friends and even enemies because my enemies are also great teachers as well.

Happy Thanksgiving
Sat Nam

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Frugal Buddha Goes to India for 11/11/11

OK this trip to India has been on my bucket list for awhile.  It just so happens that Golden Bridge,  the Kundalini yoga community I've been going to for over 10 years in Los Angeles and New York,  will host a yoga/music festival in Rishikesh, India for 11/11/11.  What is 11/11/11?  Can I say it again?

11/11/11 is a bit of a phenomenon.  It is the dawning of the Aquarian Age.  I myself have been seeing the combination of the 11/11 numbers since 1999.  I was a bit freaked out about it and kept it to myself for a long time.  Then I noticed lots of other people see the 11/11 combination.  In all honesty you can make it what ever you want it to mean.   I did begin to notice  when I came across seeing the 11/11 number combination I would feel a calmness inside me that said everything was going to be OK.  I don't mind being a nut job about this 11/11/11 thingy, just wanted to share my upcoming journey to India to celebrate.

Below is a video about the 11/11 combination.

So with the combination of the 11/11/11 celebration and my love for the Kundalini practice I just knew I had to go to India.   I did not necessarily enjoy Kundalini yoga at first until  I was introduced to the gong.  One day, Gurmukh, my first Kundalini teacher had us sit in easy pose, our hands held up high above our heads, waving in the air while a song played in the background.  She said for all of us to sing Happy Happy Happy.  I was like WTF?  I'm a native New Yorker in Los Angeles waving my hands in the air, bitchin and moaning inside, singing happy happy happy.  I was with my dear friend Haywood owner hair stylist extraordinaire of Trust Salon, West Hollywood,  who kept looking at me from  the corner of his eye without words screaming across my way, "Guuuurl.  This is some crazy shit.  Trust!"  I whispered to Haywood, "Wait for the gong.  It's all about the gong."  It's actually not all about the gong, yet I am willing to do the work, the  exercises and mantras to get to the gong.  So worth it. A natural high.  I always came home refreshed and willing to tackle life's challenges head on.  It also helped me when I quit smoking.  I did go to Nicotine Anonymous for support to quite smoking, yet  in addition practiced Kundalini to help regulate my nervous system.

What is Kundalini?
"Kundalini is the creative energy within. The whole cosmos of energy in the individual and beyond the individual. It is the energy of consciousness. Without the constant flow of energy you could not live. With a large flow your mind begins to awaken. You stop living in imaginary realities and you become to feel the real joy of this life. According to yogis Kundalini is coiled up like a snake at the base of the spine. When Kundalini is awakened through the practice of yoga, it rises. This is called the Kundalini Rising."

I'm heading out to the plane now.  I will share what happens along the way.
Below is a lovely song by my brother in law, Adam Cruz.   He too was inspired by the 11/11 combination. Enjoy.  Sat Nam!!

  Adam Cruz - 11:11 by mixtapesessions

Friday, October 28, 2011

Curly Hair Salons in New York

Curlisto  or  Devachan ???

I am a curly head that is always looking for the right place to take my precious curly locks.  If I go to a place that does not know how to cut curly hair I will walk out looking like Rosanna Dana, which was a good look in the 70’s or if you are a model for American Apparel .

My first stop was Curlisto that has a monthly seminar at their 5th Avenue location.  Call 212-997-8800 for future dates and sign up for the upcoming seminars.  Arrive 10 minutes early to get a good seat.  You will be welcomed with a glass of champagne or wine…some grapes, a little cheese.  The presentation will be about 1  ½ hour.  The cool part is if you raise your hand you might be the hair model for the seminar and they will use all of their products for your hair right there on the spot.  At the end of the seminar you will get discounts for hair product and your first hair appointment. 

I did use the discount for my first hair appointment.  The process was a simple wash and conditioner.  Here they cut my hair wet.  After the cut my stylist showed me how to finger comb my hair and how to put the curls up at the top of my head at night to help lengthen the curls in the morning.  They have a great how to video on their website.  Click on to learn about their products and how to use the product in your hair.

My curls are wider at Curlisto

Six months later I went for my second hair cut to Devachan in their Soho location.  In the basement of an office building is a curly haven.  Not a straight head in the house.  I thought that was pretty cool and rare.  My hair was cut and shaped dry.  Much detail was placed on the ends.  I definitely could see and feel the difference.  I enjoyed my rasberry tea while sitting under the dryer, I read the book Curly Girl which was required reading.
Devachan also gives you a savings card to rack up points for Deva curl hair products that you purchase in the salon.

 My curls are curly cues at Devachan

I am going to say that I only get my hair cut every six months.    Today I pay between $100 - $130 for each hair cut.  What you say?!  Where is the frugality around that?  Now for a curly hair person it is all about the right hair cut and style that lasts a long time , which makes all the difference.  I use to pay $50  every other month  totaling $300 + tips a year.    I was sick of trying to find the right place to cut my curls and the stress of always finding a new stylist and not getting what I needed.  Going  to salons that specialize with curly hair only has taken off the emotional stress.  That alone is worth it.  I also save many trips and tips going to so many different salons.

Warriess is Goddess, Warrior and Healer - sign up for upcoming workshop in Brooklyn, NY

Sign up @ 

A warriess is goddess, warrior and healer. A warriess is aware of the connection between one's self and the cosmos and makes a conscious effort to heal the physical, emotional and spiritual body and cultivate physical and spiritual power for the benefit of family, community and humanity. A warriess heal-her is fit in body, radiant in spirit and integrated in mind. If  your spiritual or physical power is suppressed or needs to be cultivated consider attending this intensive and informative workshop.

Space is limited to only 8 ladies.

In this 5 hour workshop, we will work on techniques to cultivate our power (physical, spiritual and emotional) as women and matriarchs. We will learn exercises to increase body strength to improve body image, learn techniques to heal our emotional and spiritual bodies and empower our selves by releasing our past and manifesting our future.

The modalities that will be explored in the workshop are:
• Pilates- learn core strengthening exercises and exercises to target problem areas of the body (upper and lowerabs, outer and inner thighs, butt and arms)
• Kundalini Yoga Set-Asanas (exercises) and Pranayam (breath work) to Transform and balance sexual energy and create muscular balance
• Kundalini Yoga Meditation for Prosperity, Fullfillment and Success • Martial Arts-Practical self-defense techniques in real life situations and spatial awareness for protection and empowerment
• Creative Arts Therapy-A group exploration of issues facing women today, a group exercise to release "that which binds you" and discuss concrete solutions to empower ourselves and create our reality Light beverages and snacks will be served.

Kundalini Yoga and Meditation as taught by Yogi Bhajan uses:
Asana (yoga postures)
Pranayam (breathing techniques)
Mantra (use of sound to alter thought patterns and brain chemistry)
Mudra (hand positions to channel energy flow)
Meditation (quieting the mind to promote mental clarity and self-awareness).

With this yoga, we break through the blockages in our charkas (energy vortices along the spine), alter our life condition and heal lifetimes of karma. This leads to a more fulfilled, integrated, and prosperous life.

Pilates is a series of conditioning, strengthening and stretching exercises that focus on core strength and the use of one’s own body weight. These exercises rehabilitate and prevent injuries. Creative Arts Therapy uses of creative expression (movement, music, drama, poetry, and art) to illicit suppressed thoughts, feelings and emotions which are then processed and integrated into consciousness.

Creative Arts Therapy uses of creative expression (movement, music, drama, poetry, and art) to illicit suppressed thoughts, feelings and emotions which are then processed and integrated into consciousness

Luz Emma Cañas M.A., Soma-Psychotherapist/Healer/Author, graduated with highest honors from the Chicano Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was a Graduate Fellow in the Department of World Arts and Cultures, U.C.L.A., while attaining her master's degree in Dance Movement Therapy and Rehabilitative Exercise. Extensively trained in classical ballet and modern dance, she has taught Pilates for over fourteen years. She was certified at Golden Bridge by the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) in Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. She has studied Sufi Mysticism and Healing in the Shadhiliyya Sufi Path under the guidance of Sidi Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i as-Shadhuli. Most recently, Luz is researching the healing aspects of Capoeira Angola, a Brazilian martial art with African origins. Luz has worked with a wide variety of clientele ranging from pre-verbal children to recording artists and super models. She has led workshops on the mind-body interface at Columbia University, Harlem Hospital and for American Airlines. Currently, Luz is the founder and director of Rhythm and Breath, on-line donation based Kundalini Yoga & Meditation, and spiritual counseling. She is the author of two books, a parenting book, “Kinnecting: Healing the Difficult Child with the Creative Arts” and a book of Sufi Poetry, “Impregnated with Desire.” She is currently working on her third book, a collection of poems dedicated to her recently deceased beloved husband and Capoeira master Jorge Luiz de Souza Jesus (may his soul find a peace), “Divan of the Infidel.”

For more information:

Friday, October 14, 2011

5 Items for $5 Dollars

Go to Lunch Box @ 257 W 34th Street between 7th & 8th Ave. You would not think to go in to this place, yet I am going to suggest you can go into this place when you are being frugal. During lunch hour, pay your $5 for 5 items. You can also pay $1 an item. You will need to get on the buffet line that moves very fast. I also like the bakery at this spot. If you are strapped you can get a hot dog or ham and cheese in a baked bun for $1.50. This is if you are strapped. In the same bakery they have inexpensive birthday cakes or give yourself a red velvet cupcake.
...................................................................You can have your food to stay or to go. If you want to take your food out and weather permitting, walk south one block to the US Post Office on 33rd street and 7th Ave. The steps of this historical building is a nice spot to sit in easy pose, eat and people watch.
Ivan De Leon on the steps in front of the 34th Street Post Office Picture: JORDAN MATTER PHOTOGRAPHY

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Broadway Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only Policies -

I love the NY theater scene. Playbill posted a listing of some of the major Broadway shows that have discount and rush tickets. Check out their link for more information.

Broadway Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only Policies -

Friday, May 6, 2011

How to Soothe Indigestion While Sleeping

I was tossing and turning late at night not knowing what was the matter until I considered taking into account my eating late at night. If you've had a late night meal it can trigger heartburn just before you are going to bed. What's the solution?

Difficulty:Moderately Easy
things you'll need:
•red pepper powder

1. The next time you go food shopping pick up some red pepper powder. Sprinkling red pepper on your plate can actually ward off indigestion. Use about ½ teaspoon of red pepper powder before your meals.

2. When you are ready for bed...lie on your left side. Because the esophagus is higher than the stomach it will make it difficult for your food and the digestive acid to reflux back into the throat.

3. Stay in this position for the rest of night. If you find yourself waking up on the other side of the bed turn back on your left side

4. This can help you sleep like a baby.